So a few posts back, I was talking about how I dislike alternate histories about Nazis, but here I am having read Jo Walton’s Farthing , in which the English have left the Continent to Hitler in exchange for peace. So, okay, it’s an alternate history with Nazis. But that’s not really what it is.

The book is set in Farthing, an English country estate, where an upper-class party is interrupted by a prominent gentleman being ostentatiously murdered. Scotland Yard sends in an investigator, and the mystery is on. But Farthing isn’t really a mystery novel, either.

Or, at least, it’s not just a mystery novel; because it is a real mystery novel, and it plays fair with the mystery. But it’s also a novel about class, race, sex, politics, justice, and family. You know, the little themes. In the hands of a lesser writer, cramming so many thematic elements into an alternate history English countryside murder mystery could have made for a lumpy batter indeed. But Walton is able to take ingredients that apparently have nothing in common and combine them into a concoction that makes you realize they belonged together the whole time.

This is a superb novel, even better than Tooth and Claw , and it deserves to win an award or two.


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